1 Cambridge Journal of Education, Vol. 34, No. 1, March 2004 Still no pedagogy? Principle, pragmatism and compliance in primary education Robin Alexander* University of Cambridge, UK This article revisits Brian Simon s 1981 judgement that for deep-seated historical reasons English education lacks a coherent and principled pedagogy. Given that since 1997 the tide of educational centralisation has added teaching methods to those aspects of schooling which the UK government and/or its agencies seek to prescribe, it is appropriate to test the continuing validity of Simon s claim by reference to a major policy initiative in the pedagogical domain: the government s Primary Strategy, published in May This article defines pedagogy as both the act of teaching and its attendant discourse and postulates three domains of ideas, values and evidence by which both are necessarily framed. It then critically assesses the Primary Strategy s account of some of the components of pedagogy thus defined, notably learning, teaching, curriculum and culture, and the political assumptions which appear to have shaped them. On this basis, the Primary Strategy is found to be ambiguous and possibly dishonest, stylistically demeaning, conceptually weak, evidentially inadequate and culpably ignorant of recent educational history. The article is an extended version of the last in the Research Lecture series at Cambridge University Faculty of Education, and preserves some of the style of its initial mode of presentation. Introduction In 1981, Brian Simon published Why no pedagogy in England? (Simon, 1981). On 20 May 2003 the UK government unveiled Excellence and enjoyment: a strategy for primary schools (DfES, 2003a). Why no pedagogy? is an academic critique which commands attention by force of argument and evidence. Excellence and enjoyment relies on large print, homely language, images of smiling children, and populist appeals to teachers common sense. Substantively, it seeks to secure professional goodwill, and possibly to disarm criticism, by relaxing the pressure of government prescription and targets. But beyond this surface appeal are important statements on learning, teaching, curriculum and assessment, which are arguably the core of that pedagogy whose absence Simon deplored. On these and other matters, Excellence and enjoyment designates itself not just a National Primary Strategy but also a blueprint for the future (DfES, 2003a, para 8.14). It therefore provides an appropriate test of how far, a quarter of a century on, Simon s criticisms remain valid. *Corresponding author: University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education, Shaftesbury Road, Cambridge, CB2 2BX, UK. ISSN X (print)/issn (online)/04/ University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education DOI: /
2 8 R. J. Alexander Simon believed that pedagogy the act and discourse of teaching was in England neither coherent nor systematic, and that English educators had developed nothing comparable to the continental European science of teaching. Consequently, teachers here tended to conceptualise, plan and justify their teaching by combining pragmatism with ideology but not much else. This approach, he believed, was reinforced in their training, where trainees encountered an educational theory which they could not readily connect with what they saw and did in schools. Simon traced this condition back, in part, to the Victorian public school view that education should be concerned with character rather than the intellect, and partly to the heavily utilitarian mission of the elementary schools which existed at the opposite end of the Victorian educational spectrum delivering the 3Rs, social conformity, and cheapness with or without efficiency and from which today s primary schools directly descend. Though Simon readily acknowledged the growing influence of psychology on educational thinking during the later twentieth century, he did not concede, even when he re-visited his Why no pedagogy? article in the 1990s, that it or its cognate disciplines yet offered anything approaching the coherent pedagogy which he could point to elsewhere in Europe (Simon, 1994). Of course, all education is grounded in social and indeed political values of some kind, and necessarily so; and Simon himself was nothing if not ideological in his sustained pursuit of causes such as non-selective secondary education. So his critique is less a rejection of ideology as such than a complaint that the enacting of social and political values through the specific and complex activity we call teaching cannot be undertaken on the basis of ideology alone, or even ideology leavened with pragmatism. Ideology may define the ends in teaching and hint at aspects of its conduct, but it cannot specify the precise means. Professional knowledge grounded in different kinds of evidence, together with principles which have been distilled from collective understanding and experience, are also called for, in order that as Paul Hirst put it some years ago teachers are able to make rationally defensible professional judgements both while they teach and in their planning and evaluation (Hirst, 1979, p. 16). But Simon s was nevertheless an uncompromising assessment, and it was open to challenge even in Research on professional thinking published at about the same time as Why no pedagogy? showed how the decision-making of individual teachers, especially those who had advanced beyond mere coping into the reflective judgement of mature expertise, was much more principled, informed and subtle than the Simon characterisation seemed to allow (Berlak & Berlak, 1981; Schön, 1982; Elbaz, 1983; Calderhead, 1984; Clark & Peterson, 1986). But Simon was concerned less with the many private theories of teaching and learning than with the theory and discourse which were collective, generalisable and open to public scrutiny. Simon s claim provoked interest in all sorts of places and Why no pedagogy? has become one of the more frequently cited academic titles of recent years. Interestingly it has gained this distinction mainly since government and its agencies started issuing pedagogical pronouncements at a level of prescriptive detail which was unthinkable when the first and even the second of Simon s two articles on this theme
3 Still no pedagogy? 9 appeared. For the second Why no pedagogy? article was published in 1993, just a year after an initiative in which I myself was involved, the so-called three wise men enquiry on behalf of the UK government into the evidential basis of primary education at Key Stage 2. The document which came out of that initiative began by quoting the then Secretary of State, also named Clarke, who roundly insisted that questions about how to teach are not for Government to determine (Alexander et al., 1992, para 1). In the 2003 Primary Strategy, Secretary of State Charles Clarke echoes Kenneth Clarke s assurance: A central message of this document is that teachers have the power to decide how they teach, and the Government supports that (DfES, 2003a, para 2.7). If some people were cynical about the intentions of Clarke K. in 1991 given that he launched the so-called three wise men enquiry with a preemptive strike in the form of a letter to every primary school in England, telling their heads exactly what he expected the enquiry to conclude before a word of its report had been written then the contrary evidence about the present government s approach to pedagogy should make them even more wary about the protestations of Clarke C. in 2003; decisively so since the introduction of the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies in 1998 and 1999, which are nothing if not pedagogical prescriptions, but also in view of other evidence which this paper considers. I have explained the title Still no pedagogy? and trust that the significance of the subtitle s themes of principle, pragmatism and compliance is also apparent. Since the launch of New Labour s Education, Education, Education project in 1997, ministers and DfES have elevated the quintessentially pragmatic mantra what works to the status of ultimate criterion for judging whether a practice is educationally sound; and the word compliance not to mention sanctions such as special measures or withdrawal of that accreditation by which compliance is enforced feature prominently in the procedural vocabulary of DfES, Ofsted and the Teacher Training Agency (TTA). We shall need to establish whether the Primary Strategy s new criteria for defining pedagogical quality still stop there or whether educational principle is now discernible. Conceptualising pedagogy Part of the Why no pedagogy? problem is the word pedagogy itself. It is used more frequently than in 1981, but still does not enjoy widespread currency in England. The spectrum of available definitions ranges from the societally broad to the procedurally narrow. Basil Bernstein (1990) saw pedagogy as a cultural relay and located it within his grand theory of social structure and reproduction. However, in England pedagogy is commonly used in a more restricted sense, to equate with the practice of teaching. Symptomatic of this narrower definition is the complaint by Anthea Millett, the previous head of TTA: I am always struck by how difficult teachers find it to talk about teaching They prefer to talk about learning. By contrast, they can talk with great clarity about curriculum, assessment [and] classroom organisation almost anything except teaching itself, an agenda which she said should cover competence, excellence and failure in teaching methods (Millett, 1999).
4 10 R. J. Alexander To be fair, I think many of us who have been in this business for a while recognise the condition to which Anthea Millett was referring. There certainly was a time when it was common to hear people in primary education say things like let s talk about learning, not teaching or child, not curriculum, or learner-centred not teacher-centred, and this kind of oppositional pedagogical discourse has been tracked on both sides of the Atlantic (Entwistle, 1970; Alexander, 1984, 2000, 2002). It illustrates Simon s concern about the dominance of ideology over principle, and of course sets up dichotomies which are unnecessary and unhelpful, not just when they become part of that discourse of derision which passes for educational debate in some newspapers and among some politicians (Wallace, 1993, p. 324), but also within the teaching profession itself. However, Millett s definition compounds rather than resolves the problem, for it simply weights the dichotomy at the other end and excludes matters such as learning, curriculum, assessment and classroom organisation, which are arguably essential not just to a comprehensible pedagogy but also, as it happens, to a meaningful discussion of Millett s own preferred pedagogical agenda of competence, excellence and failure in teaching methods (Millett, 1999). Tellingly in this era of centralisation and tight political control, her definition also excludes any sense of how pedagogy connects with culture, social structure and human agency, and thus acquires educational meaning. Such matters, the definition dangerously implies, are either unimportant or not for teachers to worry about. In contrast to all this, the continental view of pedagogy, especially in northern, central and eastern Europe, brings together within the one concept the act of teaching and the body of knowledge, argument and evidence in which it is embedded and by which particular classroom practices are justified. Thus, at a typical Russian pedagogical university, pedagogy encompasses: general culture comprising philosophy, ethics, history, economics, literature, art and politics; together with elements relating to children and their learning psychology, physiology, child development, child law; and as a third group, aspects relating to the subjects to be taught, or didaktika and linking all the elements metodika, or ways of teaching them. The subject element, didaktika in Russia, la didactique in France, die Didaktik in Germany, subdivides variously into, for example, allgemeine Didaktik and Fachdidaktik (general and specialist or subject didactics) in Germany, didactiques des disciplines and transpositions didactiques, or savoir savant and savoir enseigné (scholarly and taught knowledge) in France (Moon, 1998; Alexander, 2000, pp ). These are equivalent to what Lee Shulman (1987) calls content and pedagogical content and TTA s precursor body, CATE, called subject and subject applications (DES, 1989). Of course, English etymology doesn t help us here. Respectable though on the continent both pedagogy and didactics may be, here we can never completely escape the way pedagogy suggests the pedantry of the pedagogue (and indeed through their shared Greek root the words are related) and didactics elides with the chalk-and-talk intimations of didactic. Thus pedagogy and didactics, to many, suggest just one kind of teaching, traditional direct instruction. The problem of terminology and discourse is not completely one-sided. What is frequently missing in continental debate about education is the rich discourse
5 Still no pedagogy? 11 surrounding the idea of curriculum, which in Britain and the United States is more fully developed. That, I submit, is partly because both of those countries inherited traditions of curriculum decentralisation which meant that curriculum matters were always bound to be contested, even more so when their governments sought to curtail that autonomy by introducing a national curriculum in England from 1988 and state curriculum standards in the USA from about the same time. In contrast, in many continental countries the scope and balance of the school curriculum had long been centrally determined and the remaining questions concerned the character of the subjects of which it was constituted and how they should be taught. There are of course oppositional curriculum discourses there too: that of Pierre Bourdieu in France is a prime example (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1970). The prominence of curriculum in English educational discourse has meant that we have tended to make pedagogy subsidiary to curriculum. My own preferred definition has it the other way round. Pedagogy is the act of teaching together with its attendant discourse. It is what one needs to know, and the skills one needs to command, in order to make and justify the many different kinds of decisions of which teaching is constituted. Curriculum is just one of its domains, albeit a central one. With this ground-clearing in mind, let us return briefly to Millett s belief that pedagogy should concern itself with competence, excellence and failure in teaching methods rather than learning, curriculum and assessment. The demarcation is precise and absolutist. It is replicated by DfES and its agencies. In tenor and purpose this preferred pedagogy deals with judgement rather than substance and justification; and with teaching rather than the wider sphere of morally purposeful activity, of which teaching is a part, which we call education. Teachers, in this characterisation, are technicians who implement the educational ideas and procedures of others, rather than professionals who think about these matters for themselves. That is one kind of definition. Here is an alternative: if pedagogy is the discourse which informs and justifies the act of teaching and the learning to which that teaching is directed, then substance must precede judgement, or at the very least the two should go hand in hand. Otherwise it is hard to know by what criteria judgements of competence, success and failure in teaching can be devised and defended. In the alternative pedagogy, the teacher engages, as a matter of necessity, with a number of distinct but related domains of ideas and values. Firstly, and most immediately, these are concerned with: children: their characteristics, development and upbringing; learning: how it can best be motivated, achieved, identified, assessed and built upon; teaching: its planning, execution and evaluation; and curriculum: the various ways of knowing, understanding, doing, creating, investigating and making sense which it is desirable for children to encounter, and how these are most appropriately translated and structured for teaching. With, that is to say, what is to be taught, to whom, and how. But teaching takes place in a context and responds to requirements and expectations. At its most immediate this context, and its requirements and expectations, comprise:
6 12 R. J. Alexander school, as a formal institution, a microculture and a conveyor of pedagogical messages over and above those of the classroom; policy, national and local, which prescribes or proscribes, enables or inhibits what is taught and how. There s a third group, for schools and policies in turn have their larger contexts, and both they and teaching are informed by purposes and values. It may be argued it is certainly assumed that in a centralised system of public schooling government policy is purpose enough. But even the pedagogy of compliance is not immune from: culture: the web of values, ideas, institutions and processes which inform, shape and explain a society s views of education, teaching and learning, and which throw up a complex burden of choices and dilemmas for those whose job it is to translate these into a practical pedagogy; self: what it is to be a person, an individual relating to others and to the wider society, and how through education and other early experiences selfhood is acquired; history: the indispensable tool for making sense of both education s present state and its future possibilities and potential. Where the first four domains enable teaching and the next two formalise and legitimate it, the last three locate it and children themselves in time, place and the social world, and anchor it firmly to the questions of human identity and social purpose without which teaching makes little sense. They mark the transition from teaching to education. Such a list is a start, but obviously not the whole story. So, for example, if we take the domain teaching from the first group, it can be conceptually elaborated in several different ways. In my own comparative analysis of international classroom data, for which I needed a framework which was comprehensive yet culturally-neutral, I started with the irreducible proposition that teaching, in any setting, is the act of using method x to enable pupils to learn y. From this I constructed a generic model comprising the immediate context or frame within the act of teaching is set, the act itself, and its form, and then a set of elements within each such category. The core acts of teaching (task, activity, interaction and assessment) are framed by space, pupil organisation, time and curriculum, and by routines, rules and rituals. They are given form, and are bounded temporally and conceptually, by the lesson or teaching session (Alexander, 2000, pp ). A framework of this kind can serve both descriptive and prescriptive purposes, and its elements can in turn be elaborated further, as was necessary both within the comparative project in question (Alexander, 2000, pp ) and in a linked series of applied projects on classroom talk which the comparative research has prompted since then, with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the National Numeracy and Literacy Strategies, and the local authorities of North Yorkshire and Barking and Dagenham. In the latter, the action nexus of task, activity, assessment and (especially) interaction are transformed into a set of principles and indicators of dialogic teaching by way of research on the relationship between
7 Still no pedagogy? 13 spoken language, cognition and learning, and with reference to explicit social values about the kinds of interactive relationship which are implied by the concept of citizenship. This transformation in turn affects the five framing elements and the overall form of lessons. (Alexander, 2003a, 2003b, 2004). This example underscores a second imperative. It is not enough to delineate the themes of pedagogical discourse: we must also recognise how they inform each other. In the example here, the particular approach signalled by the term dialogic teaching seeks simultaneously to attend to a viable concept of teaching, to evidence about the nature and advancement of human learning, and to the conditions for education in a democracy, in which the values of individualism, community and collectivism stand in a complex and sometimes tense contrapuntal relationship (Alexander, 2001). No less important, if an intelligent pedagogy dictates attention to domains of ideas and values such as these, and to ways of organising and relating them, it also requires that we are aware that such ideas can be, and are, engaged with in different ways. Simon, as we have seen, commends the continental view of a science of teaching grounded in explicit principles relating to what children have in common. Eisner prefers the idea of teaching as an art in the sense that it is partly improvisatory, is influenced by qualities and contingencies that are unpredicted [and] the ends it achieves are often created in process (Eisner, 1979, p. 153). Argyris and Schön (1974, pp. 3 12) show how in understanding professional practice it is essential to distinguish the espoused theory to which one gives allegiance (as in the science of teaching) from the theory-in-use which actually, regardless of what one claims to others, informs one s practice. Taking this further, Sally Brown and Donald McIntyre reveal how the work of experienced teachers is, as a matter of day-to-day reality, grounded to a considerable extent in a craft knowledge of ideas, routines and conditions, which they map empirically in respect of pupils, time, content, the material environment and teachers themselves (Brown & McIntyre, 1993). Combining paradigms, Nate Gage (1978) and Maurice Galton commend the science of the art of teaching in which scientific pedagogic principles are applied in a flexible manner, according to the characteristics of a particular group of pupils, taking into account the context in which they are working (Galton et al., 1999, p. 184). Clearly, pedagogy is a somewhat more complex enterprise than may be recognised by those who reduce effective teaching to what works, or best practice lessons downloaded from government websites. The 2003 Primary Strategy In the light of all this, what can we say about the pedagogy of the Government s 2003 Primary Strategy? Time or space do not allow me to comment comprehensively, so I d like to pick out three aspects learning, teaching and curriculum which relate especially to what I have identified as the necessary core of pedagogical discourse, and in as far as it expatiates on these themes the Primary Strategy qualifies as a pedagogical statement. Before that, however, we need to consider, in
8 14 R. J. Alexander light of the paragraphs above, the tone, character and purposes of the document as a whole. Tone and intention First there s the soft sell of that title: Excellence and enjoyment. The default vocabulary for education policy since 1997 highlights standards, driving up standards underperforming, failing, intervention, hard-hitting, the challenge ahead, step change, tough, new, tough new, world class, best practice, delivery and so on (DfEE, 2001). Enjoyment sits unconvincingly with the more familiar ministerial machismo, and in the wake of the unrelenting tide of initiatives, targets and public criticism of schools performance since 1997, a certain amount of professional scepticism towards the geniality or even hedonism of enjoyment might be understandable. On the question of the character of the new discourse, apart from the fact that it is frequently ungrammatical and offers bizarre constructions like Every LEA will have a Primary Strategy Manager to provide a one-stop shop support service for primary schools (DfES, 2003a, p. 6) and One common complaint about extra funding was that a lot of it came in ring-fenced pots (DfES, 2003a, para 8.8), the more serious point is that it privileges some kinds of discourse specifically the pragmatic and political at the expense of others. Value-positions are pervasive throughout, but few are argued or justified. The report is positively messianic in its confident prefacing of problematic assertions by we believe, we want, we need, and we will. What works and best practice are of, by the same token, presented as givens. And though the report defines an excellent primary school leader as someone who is systematic and rigorous in using evidence to inform the development of teaching (DfES, 2003a, para 6.2), very little evidence is actually cited in the report itself. Instead, the reiterated appeal to experience and common-sense Every teacher knows (for example, DfES, 2003a, para 4.1) and the wilful amnesia in respect of the accumulated findings of published research on learning and teaching, not to mention the ignoring of findings from the government s own inspections, make it clear that the Strategy is about something other than argument and justification. So what is it about? The Strategy s intentions are more opaque and contradictory than at first sight they seem, especially when the document is set alongside other statements of current education policy. Central to the Strategy s message is the avowed commitment to increasing the autonomy of schools and teachers: Teachers have the freedom to decide how to teach the programmes of study state what is to be taught but not how it is to be taught the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies, though they are supported strongly, are not statutory Ofsted will recognise and welcome good practice teachers and schools can decide which aspects of a subject pupils will study in depth how long to spend on each subject QCA guidance suggesting how much time should be allocated to each subject is not statutory Our aim is to encourage all schools to take control of their curriculum, and to be innovative. (DfES, 2003a, paras 2.4 and 2.8)
9 Still no pedagogy? 15 And so on. Legally, the claims about what is and is not statutory are correct, but how many teachers will take this as an invitation to reduce the time spent on literacy and numeracy in order to free time for the rest of the curriculum, knowing as they do how much hangs on the next round of literacy and numeracy targets? In any event, the messages on this matter are decidedly mixed. The Strategy s DfES press release emphasises that testing, targets and performance tables are here to stay (Downing Street, 2003). The key aim agreed by the Ministerial Primary Education Programme Board which oversaw the development of the Strategy was to produce a common approach to teaching and learning across the curriculum identifying the key teaching and learning approaches that the [Literacy and Numeracy] strategies have promoted and provide materials and training to help teachers transfer them more widely (DfES, 2002a, p. 1). Against the ostensible offer of autonomy, we have the continuing pressure of testing, targets and performance tables and the creeping hegemonisation of the curriculum by the Literacy and Numeracy Strategies, with three-part lessons, interactive whole class teaching and plenaries soon to become a template for the teaching of everything. The summation of the Strategy s doublespeak on professional autonomy comes in Chapter 8, Realising the vision. Here, quite apart from the hubris of that word vision, there is the problem of its juxtaposition with words redolent of a rather different purpose (my italics below): We have set out our vision, but we want it to be a shared vision Weintend to spread the dialogue more widely This document is just the starting point for that vital dialogue which will shape the future of primary education This document begins to offer a blueprint for the future (DfES, 2003a, paras ) Vision? Dialogue? Blueprint? Elsewhere in the report there is less ambiguous talk of the project (DfES, 2003a, para 8.17). How can it be all of these? Political culture and the rewriting of educational history Behind this ambiguity of intent a desire to be seen to be offering freedom while in reality maintaining control lies a by no means ambiguous view of recent education history and the condition of the teaching profession. Its exponents and guardians are not so much the Primary Education Programme Board which oversaw the writing of the Primary Strategy, or even the Secretary of State, but the Downing Street Policy Unit. Some months ago I found myself sharing a platform with Michael Barber, formerly director of the DfES Standards and Effectiveness Unit and now head of the Prime Minister s Delivery Unit. The occasion was a conference in Moscow attended by Russian Ministry of Education officials and academics at which I spoke about my international comparative research on pedagogy and primary education, in which Russia features prominently, and Michael Barber gave a glowing account of New Labour s education project/vision/blueprint. He added: Until the mid-1980s what happened in schools and classrooms was left almost entirely to teachers to decide Almost all teachers had goodwill and many sought to develop
10 16 R. J. Alexander themselves professionally, but, through no fault of their own, the profession itself was uninformed Under Thatcher, the system moved from uninformed professional judgement to uninformed prescription. (Barber, 2001, pp , his italics) Note how heavily professional ignorance features in this historical pathology, and how it is presented as an inevitable concomitant of professional autonomy. To be free to decide how to teach is to be uninformed. If you were teaching before 1988, you might care to ponder what those sweeping phrases the profession itself was uninformed uninformed professional judgement say about your competence. Members of the Thatcher/Major governments of might even wish to contest the charge of uninformed prescription ; certainly their advisers on QCA s precursor bodies (NCC, SEAC and SCAA) and Ofsted s HMI predecessors could do so. It sets things up nicely, of course, for the transformation achieved by New Labour and the Utopia which is now in sight: The Blair government inherited a system of uninformed prescription and replaced it with one of informed prescription The White Paper signals the next shift: from informed prescription to informed professional judgement The era of informed professional judgement is only just beginning The era of informed professional judgement could be the most successful so far in our educational history It could be the era in which our education system becomes not just good but great. (Barber, 2001, pp The final sentence was added to the 2002/2003 versions of Barber s paper) Note the abrupt tonal gear-change, half way through this extract, from narrative to incipient political rant. In similar vein, Barber s Downing Street colleague Andrew Adonis, the Prime Minister s principal Education Adviser, in a paper to the international Policy Network (studying government material prepared for international rather than home consumption can be very illuminating) writes of the dire situation in England as New Labour found it in 1997, and with particular reference to places like Cambridge s Faculty of Education: For most teachers, professional development has traditionally been haphazard, off-site, barely relevant, poorly provided, and a chore at best. (Adonis, 2001, p. 14) I don t need to labour the point: the Barber-Adonis line is as distorted and partisan an account of recent educational history as one is likely to find, yet realpolitik dictates that it s the one that counts. Quite apart from its disparaging view of the competence of teachers and the quality of teacher training before 1997, its sweeping dismissal of that period as one of uninformed professional judgement or at best uninformed prescription simply ignores the vast body of information of which many in the education world were acutely aware: HMI reports on individual schools; HMI national surveys on primary and secondary education; Central Advisory Council and other major independent reports on primary, secondary, further, higher and teacher education, and on English, mathematics, the arts and special needs (Plowden, Newsom, Crowther, Robbins, James, CNAA, UCET, Bullock, Cockcroft, Gulbenkian, Warnock); HMI and DfES/DfE/DfEE documents on the curriculum; local evidence on standards of attainment from LEA annual tests administered in all primary schools; the results of public examinations in secondary schools; further
11 Still no pedagogy? 17 national evidence on pupil attainment in English, maths and science at the ages of 7, 11 and 15 from the sampled assessment programmes of the Assessment and Performance Unit begun in 1975; reports from Commons Select Committees, the accumulated body of curriculum guidance and materials from the Schools Council and its successors the SCDC, NCC, SEAC and SCAA; generous in-service provision in LEAs, colleges and universities; and of course research. Even on the more limited matter of information about standards in primary education with which Barber and Adonis are particularly concerned, the so-called three wise men enquiry on primary education was able to interrogate six major domains of published data dealing with standards, most of them annual and cumulative: APU tests, LEA tests, NFER tests and surveys, HMI inspections, National Curriculum assessment, and the programme of IEA international achievement studies of which the PIRLS report on reading literacy marks just the latest example (Alexander et al., 1992, paras 24 50; IEA/ISC, 2003). The three wise men report as a whole cited nearly 100 separate sources of published evidence as well as the extensive pre-ofsted HMI database and research material in the pipeline (Alexander et al., paras 55 62). Uninformed professional judgement? There was, then as now, a positive glut of information. This being so, it is clear that in the post-2001 era of informed professional judgement to be informed is to know and acquiesce in what is provided, expected and/or required by government and its agencies DfES, NLNS, OFSTED, QCA, TTA no less and, especially, no more. You may be steeped in educational research and/or the accumulated wisdom of 40 years in the classroom, but unless you defer to all this official material your professional judgements will be uninformed. As Adonis says in his Policy Network paper, writing of university faculties and departments of education: We have imposed a new national curriculum for initial teacher training, setting out the standards and content of training courses, which all providers must follow (Adonis, 2001, p. 14, my italics, his verbs). Not much room for alternative professional judgement there; and little evidence of government relaxing the iron grip of educational centralisation. If you teach, or train teachers, on the basis of other kinds of knowledge you are uninformed. For informed professional judgement, then, read political compliance. The Primary Strategy holds to this view. It shows little awareness of evidence from outside the charmed circle of government and its agencies; and no awareness of what even previous governments and government agencies did before 1997, the year in which, apparently, history and real education began. Political analysts might suggest that rewriting history has become a habitual device of government, especially within highly adversarial systems such as ours, and we should therefore not be surprised at its use in a high-stakes policy field like education (Alexander, 1998a). New Labour can also claim, rightly, that their Conservative predecessors were no slouches when it came to mythologising the past, scapegoating professionals and demonising doubters (Alexander, 1997a, pp ; Galton et al., 1999, pp ); and Berliner and Biddle (1995) have documented, tellingly and in detail, the same process at work in the United States from the Reagan era onward. Interestingly, the terms commentators use to connote this process myth, mythologise, and now
12 18 R. J. Alexander spin somehow manage to render it benign and even acceptable. Few are prepared to call claims like those cited above what they really are: lies. The failure of Excellence in schools in this regard is one of omission. It does not so much rewrite history as ignore it. But in so doing, it tacitly performs its own act of compliance to the Downing Street line: the same line, in fact, that produced the prime ministerial assault on comprehensive education in September 2000 whose mendacity was so scathingly exposed in one of Simon s last articles (Simon, 2000). Learning The striking feature of the Strategy s account of learning is its insistence on individualisation: Learning must be focused on individual pupils needs and abilities Every teacher knows that truly effective learning focuses on individual children The new Primary Strategy will actively support more tailoring of teaching to individuals Workforce reform will be critical to helping teachers focus on individual children s needs Increasing the focus on individual children will serve every child. (DfES, 2003a, p. 39 and paras ) In fact, the chapter is not about learning at all, but social inclusion, which in itself is a proper and urgent concern, and having trumpeted the importance of individualisation the report then goes on to talk about the needs of specific groups: children with special needs; children from minority ethnic backgrounds; the gifted and talented for which, apparently, in that inimitable Ofsted prose, provision is now good or better in almost half of primary schools and satisfactory or better in some 90% of primary schools (DfES, 2003a, para 4.8). Interestingly, though, gender is not included in this list, even though David Hopkins, DfES Standards Director, blamed boys for the nation s failure to meet the 80% literacy target in the 2002 KS2 tests, and Schools Minister David Miliband said that schools and society should tackle the laddish culture in order to motivate boys to do well in school (DfES, 2002b). Yet that heavy emphasis on individualisation, and the promise of support for individualised teaching, throws up problematic messages. That children are individuals is self-evident, but how far can this truism be applied in the context of other than one-to-one and small group teaching? The Strategy s authors chose to ignore the classroom research of the 1980s, including major projects from Leicester, London, Exeter and Leeds universities, which showed the limits to fully individualised teaching in classes of 20, 25 and 30 or more children (Galton & Simon, 1980; Bennett et al., 1984; Mortimore et al., 1988; Alexander, 1997a). They ignored the subsequent international research, including that reviewed for Ofsted by Reynolds and Farrell (1996), which drew attention to the way teaching in many continental and Asian countries respects individuality yet structures learning tasks on the basis of what children have in common and tries as far as possible to bring all the children in a class along together, thus reducing the wide range of attainment and the long attainment tail which has for long been such a prominent feature of English
13 Still no pedagogy? 19 primary classrooms. Most surprisingly, they ignored one of the central contentions of the government s own flagship Literacy and Numeracy Strategies, that treating learning as a collective process, notably through interactive whole class teaching, actually benefits individuals. More fundamentally, the Strategy s account of learning such as it is, for the document specifies conditions for learning but not its character or process bypasses the shift in learning theory from what Bruner (1996) calls an intrapsychic view which conceives of the child as a lone scientist to a psycho-cultural account which emphasises the necessarily social and interactive character of early learning, and argues the case for intersubjectivity as essential to cultural socialisation. And, hardly surprisingly, there s no mention either of the implications for school learning of recent advances in neuroscience. Had any of this been within the strategists consciousness they would not have confined their consideration of the importance of talk in learning to one brief and passing mention of National Curriculum English Attainment Target 1, speaking and listening (DfES, 2003a, p. 28). The section of the report which purportedly deals with learning is also notable for the way it removes any remaining ambiguities about whether the Strategy offers freedom or constraint: Learning must be focused on individual pupils needs and abilities. (DfES, 2003a, p. 39). Further: We have developed a model of intervention for children experiencing difficulties in literacy or mathematics, based on three waves: Wave One: the effective inclusion of all pupils in a high quality, daily literacy hour and mathematics lesson (Quality First Teaching). Wave Two: small group, low-cost intervention for example, booster classes, springboard programmes, or other programmes linked to the National Strategies. Wave Three: specific targeted intervention for pupils identified as requiring special educational needs support. (DfES, 2003a, para 4.6) So prescription it is then, after all: obligatory individualisation, a three wave model of intervention, and though they are supposed to be non-statutory the National Literacy Hour and Numeracy Lesson for every child in the land. Almost submerged in the mire of contradiction and confusion here, or overwhelmed by the tsunami, is one of the biggest contradictions of all: if the model of intervention is for just one group of children those experiencing learning difficulties why is it imposed upon all the others? Insidiously, the report seeks to legitimate or disguise its impoverished reasoning on learning by peppering this section with populist phrases like Every teacher knows that truly effective learning and teaching focuses [sic] on individual children and Most schools already use assessment for learning. (DfES, 2003a, paras 4.1, 4.2). Do they really? Not according to the Kings assessment for learning research (Black & Wiliam, 1998). Teaching Though the Primary Strategy s view of learning unnervingly contradicts the Literacy
14 20 R. J. Alexander and Numeracy Strategies while yet endorsing them, in the chapter on teaching the two Strategies are more securely in the saddle: The Literacy and Numeracy Strategies have, according to all those who have evaluated them, been strikingly successful at improving the quality of teaching and raising standards in primary schools. But we need to embed the lessons of the Literacy and Numeracy Strategies more deeply In the best schools, teachers are using their understanding of the principles behind the literacy and numeracy strategies We want a new approach that will help more schools and teachers to apply the principles of good learning and teaching across the whole curriculum. (DfES, 2003a, paras ) So at last we come to some principles. But would Simon be happy with those which are listed in the report s box headed The principles of learning and teaching? It instructs us that: Good learning and teaching should Ensure that every child succeeds: provide an inclusive education within a culture of high expectations. Build on what learners already know: structure and pace teaching so that students know what is to be learnt, how and why. Make learning vivid and real: develop understanding through enquiry, creativity, e-learning and group problem-solving. Make learning an enjoyable experience: stimulate learning through matching teaching techniques and strategies to a range of learning styles. Enrich the learning experience: build learning skills across the curriculum. Promote assessment for learning: make children partners in their learning. (DfES, 2003a, p. 29) Does this mean anything? Precious little, I submit. We would do better to go back to Comenius in 1657, whose ideas on pedagogical structure and pace are far in advance of those in the Primary Strategy (Keatinge, 1896). If that seems obscurantist we could certainly with profit revisit more recent classic pedagogic specifications such as Lawrence Stenhouse s curricular principles of procedure or Jerome Bruner s theory of instruction (Stenhouse, 1975; Bruner, 1966). In contrast, most of the items above are aspirations obvious to the point of banality: of course we want every child to succeed, to build on what learners know, to make learning vivid, real and enjoyable. How many teachers, though, will read this list, experience a Eureka flash of recognition and thank DfES for a profound and novel insight of lasting practical value? The only item here which has a recognisable empirical basis is the final one, which hints at the important ideas about assessment for learning and its implications for classroom talk which have come from Paul Black and his colleagues in the London King s group (Black & Wiliam, 1999; Black et al., 2002). Values are central to pedagogy but, as I argued earlier, on their own they cannot define its operational procedures. Apart from being of dubious provenance, the Strategy s principles also contain more than their fair share of non-sequiturs. What is the connection between building on what learners know, structuring and pacing teaching, and ensuring that students know what is to be learned; or between enjoyment and matching teaching techniques to learning styles? Apart from that, what is a learning style, and what indeed
15 Still no pedagogy? 21 is a learning skill? Better to define them, for learning skills in particular are liberally scattered across the entire document. It could be argued that the virtue of so bland a specification is that it makes positive and encouraging noises about the general spirit of pedagogy while leaving teachers free to devise their own more meaningful principles of pedagogic procedure. But if principles have so little purchase on practice, what, really, is their point? The more contentious the Strategy s claims, the more authoritatively they are expressed. The Strategy s prescription for the future character of primary teaching, quoted above, is predicated on the assertion that (my italics) The Literacy and Numeracy Strategies have, according to all who have evaluated them, been strikingly successful at improving the quality of teaching and raising standards in primary schools (DfES, 2003a, para 3.2). That claim, I am afraid, is also open to question. If the OISE (University of Toronto) evaluation commissioned by DfES delivers qualified approval for the Literacy and Numeracy Strategies There is considerable evidence that teaching has improved substantially since the Strategies were first introduced (Earl et al., 2003, p. 3) it also warns that the intended changes in teaching and learning have not yet been fully realised (p. 8) and, more critical still for those who would use the Strategies as the template for teaching across the entire primary curriculum, it admits that it is difficult to draw conclusions about the effect of the Strategies on pupil learning (p. 3). Perhaps, in claiming a ringing research endorsement for the Literacy and Numeracy Strategies DfES wasn t referring to the official NLNS evaluation at all, but to other studies, though it did say according to all who have evaluated the strategies, not some. But I m afraid that this all looks more and more shaky. Quite apart from the ambivalence of the OISE evaluation itself and the methodological questions about that evaluation which Harvey Goldstein (2000) has raised, Margaret Brown s five-year longitudinal study of numeracy teaching and attainment has concluded pretty devastatingly that the Numeracy Strategy has had at most a small effect on attainment in most areas of numeracy (Brown et al., 2003a). A similar point is made by Sig Prais, whose no less devastating (though contested) critique of the methodology of the PISA survey of the educational attainment of 15 year olds shows how that study produced upward bias in English students mathematical test scores to the extent of compromising their high ranking relative to other countries and, hence, government claims that this ranking shows the beneficial effects of government policy (Prais, 2003; Adams, 2003). Other studies by Janet Moyles, Linda Hargreaves, Frank Hardman, David Skidmore and indeed myself have looked closely at the pupil teacher interaction on which a large part of the success of the strategies is intended and claimed to rest, and have found that while teaching methods, patterns of classroom organisation and the handling of time, space and resources have changed considerably in literacy and numeracy lessons, practice below the structural surface has changed rather less. Pupil teacher interaction is still dominated by closed questions, brief answers which teachers do not build upon, phatic praise rather than diagnostic feedback, and an emphasis on recalling information rather than on speculating and problem-solving.
16 22 R. J. Alexander (Alexander, 2000, pp ; English et al., 2002; Skidmore, 2002; Hardman et al., 2003; Moyles et al., 2003). These findings confirm those from earlier research, including my own CICADA study, which compared pupil teacher discourse before and after the arrival of the National Curriculum, and Maurice Galton s ORACLE follow-up project (Alexander et al., 1996; Galton et al., 1999). Moreover, the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy directors themselves have acknowledged this: the absence of change at those deeper levels of classroom discourse which can impact so powerfully on children s learning is the main reason why they and QCA have commissioned materials from myself and colleagues in Barking and Dagenham LEA to support teaching through dialogue (QCA/DfES, 2003a). It is why QCA has at last turned its attention to that neglected attainment target En1, Speaking and Listening (QCA, 2003; QCA/DfES, 2003b). And it is why LEAs such as Barking and Dagenham and North Yorkshire have launched major programmes to transform classroom talk and hence, they hope, lift tested literacy standards off the plateau on which, in 2001, they stalled (Alexander, 2003b). No mention of any of this, of course, in the Primary Strategy: there, speaking and listening rate just one brief mention, as I have noted. In fact, against the Strategy s confident claim that every evaluation of NLNS has endorsed its success in transforming teaching and raising standards, it s hard to find even one study that actually provides such an endorsement. Perhaps the Primary Strategy s authors had in mind the annual Ofsted Literacy and Numeracy Strategy evaluations. These are certainly very positive, though they are not so much evaluations as checks on compliance with the teaching changes whole class teaching, three-part lessons, plenaries, the use of big books, writing frames and approved assessment materials, and so on which the strategies require. (Ofsted, 2002a, 2002b). Consider, for example, Ofsted s finger-wagging not all teachers are using the strategy s assessment materials some do not know about them (Ofsted, 2002b, para 93). However, such renegades apart, schools are indeed toeing the line: The Literacy and Numeracy Strategies were centrally conceived and directed, and our data suggest that schools have generally been inclined to acquiesce to, and approve of, such direction. Such compliance bodes well for implementing the Strategies. (Earl et al., 2001, p. xii) But compliance with something believed to be admirable does not guarantee that it is. And a culture of compliance reinforces policies and practices, good or bad, but cannot test them. As if to underline this fatal flaw, the Ofsted evaluation of the first four years of the Literacy Strategy heads its list of improvements produced by the NLS with widespread use of the NLS framework for teaching. (Ofsted, 2002a, para 149). Compliance is ultimately tautologous. In similar vein, though it is claimed that the Literacy Strategy is firmly based on national and international evidence, DfES took the extraordinary step, after the Strategy had been implemented, of commissioning an academic, Roger Beard of Leeds University, to discover what that evidence might be (Beard, 1998).
17 Still no pedagogy? 23 Curriculum And so to the Strategy s pronouncements on the primary curriculum. Twenty years ago I suggested that one of the abiding legacies of the elementary education system was that we had not one primary curriculum but two, the basics and the rest. That is to say, a high status, protected and heavily assessed 3Rs Curriculum I which was justified by reference to utilitarian values, and a low priority, unassessed, vulnerable and even dispensable Curriculum II of the arts and humanities which was justified by high-sounding but ultimately empty notions of a rounded or balanced education (Alexander, 1984). The National Curriculum simply translated the Curriculum I/II divide into the vocabulary and attendant values of core and other foundation subjects, and over the ensuing years successive governments ensured that the whole became more and more difficult to handle by avoiding the radical re-assessment of the Victorian formula of basics plus trimmings which a twentyfirst century curriculum required and simply bolting on more and more science, ICT, design and technology, citizenship, PSHE, a modern foreign language all the time insisting that the time for Curriculum I at least 50 % of the week was sacrosanct so the ever-expanding range of other subjects were forced to compete, and settle, for less and less. The depressing logic of this situation is now all too clear. At the start of the last National Curriculum review, in 1997, I argued that we had a chance to tackle this problem and subject the primary curriculum to a principled review based on fundamental questions about the kind of world we now inhabit, the much-changed character of this country s economic and social life, and the consequent needs and rights of children, now and as adults (Alexander, 1997b). Instead, the Government insisted that there should be minimal change to the curriculum because nothing must deflect teachers attention from the 2002 literacy and numeracy targets. In January 1998, the Government underlined that message by removing primary schools obligation to teach the specified content of the non-core subjects. Since then, as Ofsted reports and indeed the OISE NLNS evaluation have shown, many schools have all but given up on the original 1988 National Curriculum notion of children s absolute entitlement to a genuinely broad curriculum in which the arts and humanities are treated with no less seriousness even if with rather less time than literacy and numeracy (Ofsted, 2002a, 2002c, 2003a; Earl et al., 2003). The Primary Strategy does nothing to alleviate the problem. True, it talks of children s entitlement to a rich, broad and balanced set of learning experiences (DfES 2003a, para 3.1), but by ring-fencing the Literacy and Numeracy Strategies it ensures that the listed Curriculum II initiatives creativity, the languages strategy, the PE and sport strategy, music though separately admirable, will in conjunction have a hard time of it. Especially so, since the Primary Strategy proposes at one and the same time to widen the scope and range of the curriculum, and to reduce the curriculum to make it more manageable (DfES, 2002a, pp. 1 3). From so elementary a logistical contradiction there can be scant grounds for hope. The problem manifests itself in logistical terms certainly, but fundamentally it s one of values. In a Primary Strategy called Excellence and enjoyment it is made
18 24 R. J. Alexander very clear that the 3Rs provide the excellence and the rest delivers the enjoyment: Curriculum I and II yet again. Elsewhere standards are opposed to enrichment, even to curriculum itself. The division is firmly institutionalised, too. In 1997, as a founding Board member of QCA, I asked the then Minister of State Estelle Morris why the Literacy and Numeracy Strategies were run by the Department and the rest of the curriculum by QCA, when the new body had been set up expressly to bring coherence to the hitherto fragmented worlds of curriculum, assessment and qualifications. Ah but Minister one of her aides smoothly interjected, literacy and numeracy aren t curriculum, they re standards, and standards are the Department s responsibility, not QCA s. Literacy is standards, not curriculum: ponder, for a moment, this brutal dismissal of the civilizing ideals of universal literacy and of the efforts of the many who have fought for them. In his Policy Network Paper, Andrew Adonis confirms this revealing perception: the raising of literacy and numeracy standards is now a self-contained mission in its own right (Adonis, 2001, p. 9) and elsewhere in the system the continuing Curriculum I/II gulf, and the sense that all that really matters at the primary stage is literacy and numeracy standards, plus perhaps the modernising subjects of science and ICT, is strongly reinforced. Thus TTA requires newly qualified teachers to know and understand the curriculum for each of the National Curriculum core subjects, and the frameworks, methods and expectations set out in the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies, but merely to have sufficient understanding of a range of work (whatever that means) in the rest, including history or geography but bizarrely not both (DfES/TTA, 2002, p. 7). Ofsted full primary teacher training inspections concentrate on English, mathematics and, when at all possible, science but sample the rest on the basis of what happens to be available, while the short inspections don t even require that (Ofsted, 2002d, pp. 23, 84). The new Ofsted school inspection framework, which takes effect from September 2003, is no less casual in its approach to Curriculum II: English, mathematics, science and ICT must be inspected, and in depth, but for the rest the requirement is simply, in Ofsted s words work seen in other subjects. (Ofsted, 2003b, p 8). There s little evidence, then, that the newfound commitment to breadth and balance in the primary curriculum is serious. Were it so, teacher training and inspection requirements would reinforce rather than undermine it, and the entire curriculum enterprise would be co-ordinated by a single agency, rather than be split between QCA and DfES. (If, that is, it is really necessary for the curriculum to be centrally controlled as well as prescribed but that s another story.) But all is not lost, for in 2002 Ofsted discovered a link between breadth, balance and standards, and it is chiefly this that has fuelled the change in the government s curriculum rhetoric: this, and the need to be seen to respond positively to the increasing pressure from the arts and sports lobbies. Ofsted found that of the 3,508 primary schools inspected in , just 206, or under 6 %, achieved both high test scores in English and mathematics and consistently excellent teaching and learning across the full range of the National Curriculum. They argued, commendably, that contrary to popular opinion the National Curriculum is manageable, and, crucially,
19 Still no pedagogy? 25 that it was the breadth and richness of the curriculum which helped secure the quality of teaching and learning in literacy and numeracy in these schools, and conversely that the wider curriculum gave children and teachers a meaningful context in which to apply, reinforce and extend the basics (Ofsted, 2002c). But of course we knew this already. The famous 1978 HMI survey of primary schools, of which as of so many other key pieces of historical evidence the Primary Strategists seem unaware, reported that the schools which performed best in the basics invariably did so in the context of a broad curriculum encompassing work in the arts and humanities which was well planned and taught (DES, 1978). Then, in 1996, the Conservative government asked Ofsted to examine the relationship between the 1996 KS2 SAT results and curriculum breadth, posing the particular question Had schools which did well in the 1996 tests done so at the expense of curriculum breadth and diversity? The answer was a resounding No, and this time Ofsted showed that the earlier basics-breadth correlation held across all primary schools: Schools which did well in the tests also provided a broad and balanced curriculum Schools awarded a high grade for curriculum balance and breadth score well in the tests and those awarded lower grades score less well. This trend persists across all schools analysed, regardless of their context. (Ofsted/DfEE, 1997, paras 2 and 7) The report s publication coincided with the arrival of New Labour, the Literacy and Numeracy Strategies and the attendant targets for 2002: 75% of 11 year olds to reach Level 4 in mathematics, 80% in English. Like the 1978 HMI primary survey the 1997 Ofsted report confirmed what commonsense dictated: you cannot successfully teach literacy and numeracy in a curriculum vacuum. But New Labour were convinced that the rest of the curriculum was a distraction from the targets (and, possibly, a threat to the position of the Secretary of State, who had said that he would resign if the targets were not met). The government ignored the Ofsted report and pushed ahead with its decision to free schools from the obligation to teach the programmes of study of the non-core subjects. Ofsted did not press the point. The report was not publicised. It was an example of burying bad news of which Jo Moore would have been proud. Except that the news was good or, to be precise, good educationally but bad politically. (For a detailed account of this episode, see my evidence to the 1998 Commons Education Committee enquiry into the work of Ofsted: House of Commons, 1999, pp ) With that recent history in mind, with the Literacy and Numeracy Strategies firmly in place, and with a continuing commitment to targets, albeit managed differently, who can possibly believe the Primary Strategy s avowed commitment to a rich, broad and balanced set of learning experiences? (DfES, 2003a, para 3.1). Do we still need to argue that education is meaningless without the arts and humanities, and without a more generous concept of the teaching of English than basic reading and writing competence alone, or as persuasively argued by Rowan Williams (2000) a more coherent approach to moral education? The demeaning reduction of these to enjoyment and enrichment, and the readiness of the
20 26 R. J. Alexander Government to sacrifice them on the altar of standards (as opposed to standards) signals that they remain insecure. There are two further failures on the Primary Strategy s curriculum front. The first and most obvious is the total absence of real vision about the future of the primary curriculum, a deficiency for which the report s heavy reiteration of the word vision provides no more than a tattered figleaf. Nor does the current version of the National Curriculum offer very much more. Its published goals (DfEE/QCA, 1999, pp ) are an extraordinary ragbag of values which if they were deliverable would secure a nation of men and women at once dynamic, entrepreneurial, athletic, ruthless, successful, rich, multi-skilled, possessed of encyclopaedic knowledge, humane, compassionate, modest, religious, tolerant, cultured, ascetic and thoroughly confused about their identity. They are what you get if you handle the demands of large numbers of interest groups by adding each one to a lengthening list without attempting to establish whether they are compatible. (For a comparative critique of the 1999 National Curriculum aims in an international context, see Alexander, 2000, pp , ) The second failure is to come to terms with the managerial implications of a broad and complex curriculum. The Primary Strategy has a chapter entitled Workforce reform which essentially seeks to sell the Government s policy on classroom assistants (DfES, 2003a, chapter 7). The more necessary workforce reform was argued in the 1986 Select Committee report on primary education which said that the demands of a modern curriculum could not reasonably be met by schools staffed on the basis of one generalist class teacher per class. The Committee secured the agreement of the then Secretary of State, Keith Joseph, for 15,000 extra teachers to inject curriculum flexibility into England s 20,000 primary schools (House of Commons, 1986). The agreement was not implemented. The so-called three wise men report of 1992 took this argument forward, commending a broader repertoire of teaching roles in primary schools ranging from generalists through consultants and semi-specialists to specialists, to enable the full curriculum to be adequately managed and taught, and insisted that to allow schools the necessary staffing flexibility the long-established primary-secondary funding differential must be challenged (Alexander et al., 1992, paras ). That idea didn t get far, partly because it had resource implications which the Commons Education Committee investigated but which the then government passed smartly to the LEAs (House of Commons, 1994a, 1994b); partly because many primary teachers wrongly saw it as a threat to the class teacher system; and partly because secondary heads, in turn, thought that the money would be taken from them. Then during the 1980s and 1990s there were numerous attempts to find ways of maximising the impact of teachers specialist subject strengths, within a framework of roles variously called curriculum co-ordinator, consultant, adviser, subject leader and curriculum manager. The Primary Strategy s chapter Leadership in primary schools talks about leadership in highly generalised terms, focusing on heads and the novelties of consultant leaders and a leading practice programme, but in a way which is utterly divorced from the day-to-day demands of the curriculum. Again, of all the